Max Power writes some interesting stuff responding to Eugene Volokh on evolution vs intelligent design. Click here then scroll down; also go over to volokh's page to see his arguments.

Although I am, of course, a die-hard evolutionist, there is much more to this debate than Max is seeing. Of course, evolution is "right" and ID "wrong", to the best of the ability of the scientific community to know anything. That fact is often obfuscated and bears repeating. But ultimately it is not what is at stake in the debate over what to teach in the schools.

Rather, at stake in the teaching of evolution in schools is: who determines what is the truth, and how is that truth determined? Creationists see clearly that evolution is incompatible with their literal bible; therefore they think it is false and should not be taught to their children (and possible other children too, but specifically theirs). Their truth comes from the bible and they believe the state should recognize that. Scientists think that science is the best way to find truth, and therefore what science has found is what should be taught to kids. The muddled compromise is to teach both things, neither very well. This is exactly what we should expect from politics.

The typical way in which conflicts over scarce resources are handled in our society, is by the institution of private property. I like steak, so I spend some of my resources buying steaks (and eating them -- yum!) A vegetarian can disapprove of that all she wants, and spend her own money on celery sticks. We both get what we want. And while she may think I am an evil cow-killer, at least my actions don't implicate her. Similarly, I can spend my money on books about evolution, and that's my right. My neighbor can spend his time looking for the Ark on Mount Ararat, and that's his right. I may think he is a fool (and he may think me a fool), wasting time and money on "obviously" false ideas. But we live together in peace. It's his life; or, as I might respond nowadays: WHATever.

But when the state enters the picture, we no longer have private property but rather public property. And to the extent that there is difference, public property will always cause conflict. For inherent in the idea of public ownership is the idea of the one best way. If "we" are to teach evolution (as I would like), "we" force it on my neighbor's kid too. And even if "we" let that kid out of that particular class, because the school is tax-funded my neighbor is still being forced to pay for teaching ideas that he thinks are wrong and evil.

Taking private property forceably is always wrong; but using it ways that the unwilling donor finds evil adds insult to injury. It's also a practical guarantee of political resistance from the victim. Having one's money stolen and used for good things is quite different than having it stolen and used for evil.

The real solution to evolution in the schools, and all the other skirmishes in the political culture war, is to privatize. Then the fundies can teach their kids creation, and my kids can learn evolution. And not just the watered down evolution currently contained in textbooks which are trying to appeal to everyone. Rather, The Selfish Gene as a textbook. (Anyway that's what I would demand as a parent.)

True diversity is only possible under private property. It would be good for all the "multiculturalists" out there to reflect on that. Had there been any notion of public education in 1789 it seems certain that freedom of education would have been enshrined in the first amendment with other freedoms of conscience.
Patrick Buchanan right about something: the price of empire is terror.
My buddy Ellen writes, regarding Dontay (see below):

...a clear example of one not succumbing to victimhood. I am with you on that one. What I can't quite place is why the hoorah for a product of the public school system which takes your money, after all, without even asking. Spending it on edumacation and what not, and FREE lunches to boot. Egads! Is it simply that you did not have the energy to rant on what is not right about the whole public school system? That with a smattering of "well heck, this is the system we are forced to life with until the revolution so why bother" thrown in for good measure? Just a wondering.

Boy, email like this is easy to respond to since she pretty much has me pegged. Of course I do not believe in public education, and of course I realize that the system is not going to magically vanish just because I think it is immoral. So, yes; I am writing about responses to the system as it is. Also, in this case, the focus is more on Dontay, the It kid, making his way as best he can through the system he is presented with. He has even less power than I do to change it. Also he almost certainly has no exposure to libertarian ideas; so to expect him to act in accordance with them is unreasonable. (As if he would buy them even if he knew about them.)

More generally, I always keep in mind that my opponents are people and deserve respect. Most people, in my experience, are good hearted in the sense that they want the world to be a better place; that they want more happiness for more people; and that they want to live in a virtuous, moral, and peaceful society. Nobody has a monopoly on these things.

The differences in the world boil down to two things. First, different axioms. Some people think a seven month old fetus has (or should have) rights; some people don't. This sort of difference will never go away, and will always cause conflict. The best we can do is to manage that conflict, as peacefully as possible. One can hope to win over the other side to one's own view of the world, but that is not something one can do with science and reason alone. Ultimately, everyone is religious in the sense of accepting truths that are unprovable.

The other sort of difference in the world is error; either misunderstandings of the basic nature of reality, or incorrect reasoning. For instance, do drugs cause crime or do drug laws cause crime? The process of debate and punditry can hope to correct error, but even that is very difficult, usually because history does not often provide clear interpretations.

Getting back to Dontay, his is just a single anecdote which doesn't prove much. It would serve to disprove an extreme view holding that it is literally impossible to transcend race and class in America -- but then nobody really holds such a view. Practically, the best I can hope for socialists reading this is for them to question the idea that "society" is or must be the primary force determining the success and failure of individuals. What we are includes things we are born with, which make a big difference.
Interesting "local interest" story about a poor kid who got a scholarship to the University of Maryland:

Dontay moved from place to place as a boy, from the Park Heights area to North Avenue to East Lafayette Avenue to Cockeysville. He attended a string of elementary schools. If and when his mother was around, she wouldn't make him or his siblings go to school, so some of them didn't.

But Dontay did.

"Maybe I liked the school. Maybe I felt wanted at the school," he says. "Plus, they had meals, so we could eat."

Of course, this is just one kid out of thousands in failing school systems. And it is by no means clear he will succeed in life (though that looks likely now). Nonetheless, people like Dontay are proof that the American dream is alive and well. Some people have drive and will succeed whereever they find themselves. Others, won't. Victimhood politicians are always going to have problems when there are living refutations of their ideas around.
Megan McArdle (I wonder if I should call her Jane?) has an interesting blog item up inspiring by the house voting to raise the ceiling of FDIC insurance.

I posted a few comments there, and then I thought, what the heck might as well blog 'em here too.

Although some of the people who caused the S&L debacle were crooks, I don't think it is fair to generalize that much. They weren't really comparable to high school kids, either. (I assume Megan is using this analogy to indicate irresponsibility.) Rather, they were reacting rationally given their circumstances. With no downside risk, it is sensible to shoot for the highest possible upside. Actually what amazed me about that scandal is how many of the S&Ls did not engage in high risk investments, not how many of them did.

Regarding bank runs and the business cycle: Bank runs were not the cause of damage to the banking system in the 30s. Rather, they were a symptom. Bank runs are a valuable corrective in a free fractional reserve banking system. (Note though that fractional reserve banking is by nature fraudulent, and would be better gotten rid of.) The damage in 1930 was ultimately caused by the Fed, inflating the currency and causing a speculative boom in the 20s. Folks interested in understanding banking and the business cycle should check out The Mystery of Banking, by Murray Rothbard.

In fact, people should check out The Mystery of Banking in spite of being disinterested in banking. Anyway, I think so. I am always amazed by how many smart people are ignorant of economics. I think that for a pundit (and aren't we all at least two days per week?) to be ignorant of economics is rather like a biologist being ignorant of evolution. Yet, so many are.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe has a new article about Rothbardian Ethics at lewrockwell. I think he oversimplifies the argument way too much. Perhaps I shall have more comments presently. Nonetheless, an article worth reading:

a judicial monopoly will inevitably lead to a steady deterioration in the quality of justice and protection. If no one can appeal to justice except to government, justice will be perverted in favor of the government, constitutions and supreme courts notwithstanding. Constitutions and supreme courts are state constitutions and agencies, and whatever limitations to state action they might contain or find is invariably decided by agents of the very institution under consideration. Predictably, the definition of property and protection will continually be altered and the range of jurisdiction expanded to the government's advantage until, ultimately, the notion of universal and immutable human rights - and in particular property rights - will disappear and be replaced by that of law as government-made legislation and rights as government-given grants.
If I had a TV I would be watching the NBA with the sound off, after reading this:

You don't hear referees' whistles, which has two effects: One, the game is more confusing, so you have to work harder to make sense of it, which means you're more tuned-in, more committed to watching every little thing that happens. Two, almost everything under the bucket looks like some kind of foul. I'm telling you, the game is vicious, especially in the playoffs, when you turn the sound off. Guys are mugging each other. And I'm not saying anything, but I'm just saying this: Every move Shaq makes with the ball is an offensive foul.

Some scientific results on race and race mixing in America. The rather unsurprising results: race mixing in America is bimodal. Nonetheless it is significant present in most Americans.

My dad has tracked his ancestors back many generations. It seems that at least one of my ancestors was probably an African American ex-slave who managed to "pass" as an Indian in Maine (apparently the taboo against Indian intermarriage was less than that against "black" intermarriage). I wonder what my own racial percentages are? I think it would be a good thing for America if we found out just how mixed we really are.

(Link via instapundit.)
The press loves the spectacle of a gun massacre. But just as naturally, when a massacre doesn't quite happen, or doesn't happen as large as might otherwise have happened, it does not make as good a story. Case in point: the killing of three people at the Appalachian School of Law, last January 16. The killer, leaving the scene, was confronted by three students, two with guns that they had just retrieved from their cars. Are guns only good for killing, as the left likes to say? No -- they are made for threatening, too; the ability to maim or kill is necessary to communicate an effective threat; but the threat is the thing. As in this case: the killer, seeing two guns pointed at him, surrendered. The killer's gun was used for killing. The students' guns were used for communicating with the killer. Read it yourself.

Bridges, Gross, Besen, and Ross are heroes. They may have stopped several murders and maimings from occuring, using their guns. (It is not stated in the article whether the killer had the means to reload his gun, which was empty when he was stopped.) Bridges is quoted saying "I'm not a gun nut or militia-type person", but on January 16 he was a militiaman, whether he likes it or not. (I am sure his point in saying that was to disassociate himself with the press stereotype of the modern militiaman, who as we all know is a vaguely organized, right-wing, racist, sexist, heavily armed conspiracy theorist.)

What really burns me about the article is down toward the end: "Bridges... said he has heard rumblings that a few students are unhappy he and and Gross keep handguns in their vehicles." OK, so here are two men, both with police training, on your campus. They have shown in an actual deadly emergency courage and level headed good judgement in using their weapons. What more could one possibly ask for?

I know what I would ask for: I would be begging these guys to get a concealed carry permit so they could have their weapons on them at all times. If that had been true on January 16, then these guys could have reacted instantly and not had to run to their cars to get their lifesaving communication devices. It seems quite possible to me that at least one life would have been saved, or one less person maimed. In the article Bridges is quoted as saying "I only wish we could have stopped him a little sooner." Yes, exactly.

I got the linkup from the all-seeing InstaPundit.
Common sense from the people, if not yet the politicians: Israelis Seek to Build Physical Barrier in West Bank.
ANOTHER HACK: Here's another suggested Amendment for the Constitution. This one's a bit more radical than the last...

XXth Amendment:

Section 1. Election of both of a state's Senators shall take place in the same election, with all candidates running on the same slate for the two Senate seats. When voting for the senate, each voter may vote for any or all candidates on the slate. At the time of the passage of this Amendment, the term of whichever Senator is shorter shall be extended so that he or she next stands for election at the same time as the second Senator from his or her state. After a Senatorial election, the two candidates with the most votes shall be seated as Senators.

Section 2. Each Senator shall have a variable weight of voting in the Senate, which shall be the number of votes he or she received in his or her most recent election, divided by the total number of registered voters in his or her state eligible to vote at the time of the election.

Section 3. Where the Constitution before this amendment required a majority in the senate to pass a bill, order, law, or resolution, it now requires a sum of at least 50 votes. Where the Constitution before this amendment required a 2/3 majority, it now requires a sum of at least 66.7 votes.

The idea here is to address one particular failing of our democracy. In our system, a person that does not register and/or does not vote is counted as if he or she voted for whomever wins the election. And the votes of all the voters are proxied as if they all agree with the winner of the election. This amendment would have the effect, for the Senate, of treating registered voters who either don't vote, or vote for a non-winner, as voting *against* everything the Senate does. That makes it a lot harder to do anything in the Senate; which is the point.

This amendment also smuggles in a particular form of alternate voting called "approval voting", which should have the effect of widening the election considerably. In approval voting third parties are not bedevilled with the paradox of "throwing away your vote".
HACKING THE CONSTITUTION: Eugene Volokh has a great thought experiment: "imagine that you had the superpower to add one amendment to the U.S. Constitution... What would it be?"

I have a few ideas as to good amendments.

Here's the first one. The idea is to attack the tax system at the root, by uncoupling government income from all other concerns. But to keep it palatable to the electorate, you have to build in the ability to raise taxes as well as lower them.

XXth Amendment:

Section 1. A new legislative body of the United States of America is hereby empowered, to be called the Tax Senate. There shall be one Tax Senator per state, elected by the people thereof. The methods described for the filling of Senate positions in the 17th Amendment shall also apply to Tax Senators. The initial term of the first Tax Senators appointed upon the passage of this amendment shall be until the election year in which neither of the State's two Senators stands for election.

Section 2. The Tax Senate of the United States will concern itself only with rates of taxation. Its only power, delegated to it by the people, shall be to pass amendments to congressional laws of the form "Effective on <date>, the rate of taxation of <taxtype> on line <line-number> of U.S. law <law-specification> shall be <rate or amount>." Any other statement, bill, or measure passed by the Tax Senate shall be null and void. The Tax Senate shall assemble at least once in every year, for no longer than 28 days per year. The Tax Senate may not amend laws while not assembled.

Section 3. By the vote of the majority of members present, the Tax Senate may retroactively lower any tax rate in any law passed by the Congress. The lowering of tax rates is effectively immediately upon passage. By the vote of two-thirds of the members present, the Tax Senate may retroactively raise any tax rate, subject to signature by the President.

Section 4. The Congress shall have no power to pass a law containing any tax, except that the tax shall come into effect after the next beginning of the meeting of the Tax Senate.

Initially I had thought to replace the Senate with the Tax Senate, since the Senate is little different than the House after the 17th amendment. But doing that would require amending the text of the constitution all over the place. So I think just bolting on a new legislative body is clearer to write, even if it does the leave the anachronistic Senate hanging on.

The root problem that this hack to the Constitution addresses is the problem of the conflation of issues in the republican delegation of power. Practically speaking, it is impossible for the legislature to respond clearly to the will of the people on any but the top few issues, since individuals must be elected as representatives. This solution takes one particular issue, taxation, and "uncouples" it from all other issues. So the House and Senate would no longer be concerned with tax levels; and the Tax Senate would *only* be concerned with them. This makes the overall will of the people on the issue of taxation heard fairly precisely. (I have some faith that generally the people want lower taxes but that desire is being attenuated by other things.)

It would be possible to uncouple the politics of any given issue in a similar way, although you have to be careful to be able to separate the issue from other things. Perhaps we should have 1000 Senates for specific issues.

Now, taking Eugene's idea a little further, imagine the Tax Senate as above, except that instead of electing them via one man one vote, they are elected by one-dollar-of-taxes-paid-since-last-election, one vote. Now that would be radical! But too radical, I think, to stand up to Eugene's specificication that the amendment would not get promptly repealed.
ON SECESSION: Eugene Volokh, whose blog I might well be adding on the left presently, has some interesting posts up on the matters of secession and slavery. (Also scroll down a bit to see the original posting about Confederate flags.) I agree with Volokh in the main, but I think him fundamentally wrong about the ACW and its meaning.

The ACW was, ultimately, about two things. First, slavery, and second, state's rights; in particular, the question of the right of a state to secede from the Union. The North claimed there was no such right. The South thought there was. I think there was, and is, such a right. In that reading, the North was wrong. Wrong to attack the South; wrong to start a war at all. Now, if the North had started the war over slavery, then I would have to say they were justified, or at least, that they had a plausible justification for war. But they did not. They started the war only for the "Union", which was a rather tenditious way of asserting the idea that no state could leave the Union and any trying to do so were traitors, and must be literally conquered and forced back into it.

But this notion flies against two key founding notions of our republic: federalism (meaning the doctrine of enumerated granted powers), and the notion that the "right" to govern rests on the consent of the governed. These things should be obvious to any conservative or libertarian, I should think. So for Volokh to refer to the Confederate flag as "a symbol of... treason" is simply wrong. It is a symbol of chattel slavery, and of cultural identity, and of valorous resistance to tyranny, and of (yes) freedom. Obviously it is a complex symbol, but surely not wholly devoid of value. (As one can see on the left, I do not fly it myself. I prefer the Gadsden flag.)

The South, in the events of 1861, was right, though, motivated by evil reasons. (And some good reasons, that is, shaking off the oppressive tariffs that Volokh talks about. But I don't think that is the main reason.) The North was motivated, at least in part, by a good reason (anti-slavery), but in their actions they were wrong. In this, we see a similarity to many other hard decisions about liberty. Consider the "classic" case: do Nazis have the rights of free speech? We hold that they do, in spite of the offensiveness of their speech. They are wrong, but they are right to speak, and that is what is at issue. Or, do people have the right to load their bodies full of drugs and poison? A libertarian would say yes, in spite of the negative effects that doing so may have. Must religious artifacts and propaganda be removed from all public display? Yes, in spite of how objectively good such display might be for the body politic. Can we carry about, concealed or revealed, a weapon, with no permission from anyone? Yes, in spite of the danger this poses to others.

It is the hard cases that are most useful in revealings people's political beliefs.

Now, the above reasoning, I would think, would hold true for just about any libertarian. But I want to add on one more point, coming more from the anarchist perspective. And that is, that of all rights one might hold dear to prevent a political system from turning tyrannous, the right of exit is perhaps the most dear. If you can secede from a polity effectively, then you hold the ultimate trump card when it comes to limiting the depredations the polity can inflict upon you. This right is more important than a free press, and more important than the right to keep and bear arms, for if exit is still possible then the violation of those rights would be good grounds to do so. (Of course, the RKBA in particular is designed to make revolution practical; but it would always be better to secede peacefully than not.)

So, to the anarchist inclined libertarian (as they are at, the ACW and its defacto outcome -- that there is no right of secession -- is not just a grevious blow to our rights, but rather the blow, the killing blow, that made all the subsequence blows possible. Looked at in that light, the side effect of the ACW -- freeing the slaves -- seems like it is not worth the price. The North freed a minority from a terrible form of slavery, but at the price of subjecting all of us to a milder form of slavery. Of course our subjugation to Washington was initially not bad, merely the launch off the top of the slippery slope. But now we are subject to taxes, conscription, victimless incrimination, inflation, and restrictions of all our rights. And we have not seen the end of it yet. How bad will it be? Who can say?

Meanwhile, most every other country in the world freed its slaves peacefully, so there is at least some reason to believe that the slaves would have been freed, eventually, without any war at all. Indeed, American slaves were not fully freed by the war. It took another 100 years and the slow, patient, peaceful efforts of the civil rights movement to fully effect that goal.

Now, reasonable people can disagree about the relative value of ending chattel slavery versus the loss of the right of secession. But right now, in the popular press and the state run school system, the latter loss is not mentioned at all; and so the ACW is depicted in a cartoonish fashion as fight of the virtuous slavery-abolishing North versus a traitorous South fighting only for evil. It's a lot more complicated than that.
A very interesting memorium of Lord Bauer. I don't really agree with vdare on immigration, but this particular piece is not about it per se and well worth the time.